BOSTON — Stanley met Gloria on Wednesday night in TD Garden, and for Blues fans everywhere it’s a match made in hockey heaven.
The wait is over, the curse lifted. After 52 years, the St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup champions for the first time by virtue of their 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 7.
Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington kept the game from slipping away in the first period, when the Blues went more than 16 minutes without a shot on goal and the Bruins pelted him with 12 shots.
Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly gave the Blues a lead they’d never lose with a tip-in goal late in the first period. Captain Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden Schenn and finally Zach Sanford followed with goals to make it a 4-0 game in the third period. The defense held firm in front of Binnington, and it was all over but the shouting.
There was plenty of shouting, cheering, hugging, tears on the ice afterwards. It was mayhem, the happiest type of mayhem imaginable.
There was Pat Maroon, the pride of Oakville, with son Anthony. Colton Parayko, handing the Stanley Cup to young Laila Anderson, who’s battling a rare disease.
The “Sasky Boys” — Saskatchewan natives Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz — posing with the Cup in front of several hundred Blues fans who somehow found their way into the Garden.
And Pietrangelo, pausing as he spoke to reporters on the ice to listen to chants of “Let’s Go Blues! Let’s Go Blues!” He goes down in history as the first Blues player to lift the Cup.
“Heavier than I thought,” Pietrangelo joked. “My first thought was make sure Bouw (Jay Bouwmeester) gets an opportunity because that’s what you work for. You work for your teammates.”
Bouwmeester, a 16-year vet who went his first 10 years in the league without playing in a single playoff game, was the first to get the Cup from Pietrangelo. And then Alexander Steen, Chris Thorburn, David Perron ... and on it went.
The Blues have the Cup.
“It means the world to me,” Maroon said. “To bring it back home to St. Louis, it can’t be more better. And being from St. Louis and being with those fans when I was young. And even when I played in the National Hockey League for other teams, I still watched those Blues and how they suffered — and how those fans suffered.
“Not anymore. We did it!”
Yes they did. It actually happened. You can say it, shout it. The Blues are Stanley Cup champions, going from worst to first in one season.
No team in the four major North American team sports (NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB) had ever been in last place overall even one-quarter into a season and gone on to make the league championship series (or in the case of the NFL, the Super Bowl).
The Blues, last in points on the morning of Jan. 3, have gone one better. They’ve won the whole thing.
It probably doesn’t happen without O’Reilly, who has been playing with a rib injury for much of these playoffs. That’s the reason why his faceoff wins dropped dramatically and his shot seemed to lack its usual zip.
“He was the guy that kind of kept us afloat a little bit at the start of the year,” Bouwmeester said. “He was probably the one consistent guy that was playing at a high level. ... right from the start he was lights out.”
There’s no doubt O’Reilly helped get them across the finish line. His first-period goal gave him eight points in the series (five goals, three assists), a Blues record for a Stanley Cup Final. His 23 points in the playoffs on eight goals and 15 assists set another Blues record.
What a journey it’s been for O’Reilly with the Blues. As he sat at the podium with the Conn Smythe Trophy at his side, O’Reilly hearkened back to July 1 when he spoke to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong on the phone after being traded to St. Louis from Buffalo.
“I’m looking at the roster, I was so amped up,” O’Reilly said. “I just said, ‘Let’s go win a Cup.’”
And here they are.
With just 3:13 left in the first period, he tipped in a Bouwmeester shot from near the blueline for the game’s first goal. As such he became only the third player in Stanley Cup Final history to score his team’s opening goal in four consecutive games, joining Sid Smith in 1951 and Norm Ullman in 1966.
With just 7.9 seconds left in the period, the Blues struck again. Jaden Schwartz carried the puck out of the neutral zone past the blueline, eluding a would-be check to keep the play alive. Near the goal line, Schwartz passed back to Pietrangelo, who skated in patiently on Tuukka Rask and beat the Boston goaltender with a backhand for a 2-0 lead.
It was Pietrangelo’s third goal of the postseason; he also had a secondary assist on the O’Reilly goal. So he extended his totals to 16 assists and 19 points — both Blues records for a single postseason for a defenseman.